As Northamptonshire Police’s football officer, it is Pc Nick Price’s job to deal with the unsavoury elements attached to every team playing in the county, whether it is Cobblers, Brackley Town or even Barnsley.
However, his main role is to act as a liaison between different police forces, as well as the clubs and to offer intelligence to officers. Before all Cobblers games, both home and away, Pc Price works alongside Eric White – who has been planning football safety since they were at the County Ground - to assess potential flash points.
The pair will talk to coach companies, find out how many fans are expected to make the trip and evaluate if there is likely to be any trouble or “if a mini-bus full of lads is going to tip up filled with booze”.
Most matches at Sixfields have no police presence at all.
However, some, such as Saturday’s game with Oxford United, are a higher risk and require police officers.
Last year, the same fixture resulted in 22 arrests and ejections. On Saturday, there were two arrested and three people kicked out of the ground.
Two “spotters” from Thames Valley Police travelled to Sixfields to help keep an eye on the away section. Police also visited pubs before and after the match to keep an eye on fans.
“We do have a small minority, as all clubs have, who are intent on causing disorder and that will be with another like minded group from another club”, Pc Price said.
“They are the main risk I will be telling the other force about. If they are intent on travelling away then I will have to tell the other force about it.”
A key part of his job is to make football fans feel welcome and safe rather than disenfranchised. He posts messages and advice on Twitter to fans. He travelled to Chesterfield, along with a bumper Cobblers’ following, to “meet and greet” Northampton in Derbyshire this season.
Pc Price said he is willing to give fans the benefit of the doubt. At the Chesterfield match, having gone 3-0 down inside 25 minutes, a Cobblers fan threw his cup of tea at the pitch in disgust. Stewards were ready to pounce.
However, Pc Price said he gave the frustrated fan a talking to and let him watch the rest of the match.
He said: “I am a Leeds United supporter and I have travelled home and away with Leeds and I have been treated pretty poorly. That is because Leeds have quite a high risk group and when they come to town they bring certain issues with them. While I love my club it saddens me that Leeds fans are treated in a certain way.”
He said police in Northamptonshire prepared for the worst when Cobblers drew Cardiff at Sixfields in a cup competition earlier this season. Officers ended up being stood down due to their good behaviour. “They were as good as gold.”
Follow PC Nick Price on Twitter at @NorpolFootball.
FOOTBALL problems, when they do arrive, can manifest in unusual ways. Barnsley fans are currently persona non grata in Northampton after a couple of coaches pulled into town on their way to Milton Keynes and caused troubles in pubs. They have been asked to visit another town for a stop-over. Brackley Town are currently challenging for promotion to the Football Conference Premier. It could mean the likes of Luton Town, Lincoln City and Wrexham visiting the small south Northamptonshire town for away games. It is something Pc Price said could cause police problems in the future. A fixture between Kettering Town and AFC Telford resulted inviolence after a number of banned fans from other clubs turned up for a day out. Another one of his roles is to manage Northamptonshire’s banned supporters. There are currently six banning orders associated with Cobblers and 22 in the county. Before every England away game they have to hand in their passports to him.